The HSE is urging people to resist the temptation to stay by the fire or watch television for long periods and instead get active as we settle into the New Year.
It says this is a great way to improve our mood and help burn off extra calories after the overindulgence of the festive season.
All adults should aim to be active for at least 30 minutes a day five days a week, according to the health authority. Children and young people should be active for at least 60 minutes every day.
“You don’t have to do it all at once. You can build up to 30 minutes or more a day by doing a number of short bouts of physical activity. However, you must be active for at least 10 minutes for it to count. Activities such as brisk walking (one mile in 15 to 20 minutes ), cycling (slower than 10 miles an hour ), ballroom dancing, or work around the home such as brisk vacuuming, will be of benefit. Children are naturally active so any amount of physical activity counts towards their 60 minutes.”
Dr Ailis Brosnan, physical activity co-ordinator with the HSE says being physically active is one of the most important steps people can take to improve their health, whatever their age or ability.
“If you’re not sure where to start www.getirelandactive.ie will be a great help. It is a one stop information source for events, advice, information and motivation to help you get more physically active. Events can be submitted by the general public and the site is updated regularly by local sports partnerships. Many of the activities listed are free and some of the activities listed on the site include: Fit4Life - a programme run by Athletics Ireland and local sports partnerships where people interested in running for fun can meet and train. Beginners are welcome.”
She says at this time of year the weather is colder and the days are shorter. However once you dress appropriately being active outdoors is a great way to improve you health and wellbeing.
The HSE offers the following tips for staying warm and safe when exercising outdoors this winter:
The baselayer is worn next to your skin. It should be light and made from a synthetic material such as microfiber or polyester. Cotton clothes are not a good base layer, when you sweat, they get wet and you can end up feeling cold and uncomfortable. Leggings or tights will keep your legs warm.
The mid layer is for warmth - a light fleece is a good choice.
The outer layer should protect against wind and rain so a light waterproof jacket will be useful.
Hat and gloves
If it is really cold a snug fitting hat and gloves will help keep you warm.
Wear a reflective vest or jacket to make sure you are seen.
Start and finish slowly
Start off at a walking pace and gradually increase it until you are exercising at a moderate intensity. Your heart should be beating faster than normal and you should be breathing faster than normal. When you are finishing slow down to a gentle walking pace and do some stretches.
Think about safety
In built up areas only run or walk in well lit streets or parks. Ask a friend to join you, find a running buddy or join a running or walking group. If the roads and footpaths are really icy it might be time to think about exercising indoors.
Dr Brosnan says it can be difficult to keep children active with the dark evenings and bad weather.
“Limiting the amount of time children spend in front of screens like TVs, laptops, computers and games consoles will give more time for physical activity. Research shows that children whose parents are regularly physically active, tend to be more active than those whose parents aren’t so why not join in with their activities.”
Here are some ideas to help keep your family active this winter:
· Dress for the weather and go to the local park or playground
· Put on coats and wellies and go for a walk in between rain showers
· If it snows wrap up and make a snowman, go sledding or have a snowball fight.
· Visit www.getirelandactive.ie where you can search for activities and events in your area to help you be active.
· Put on some music and have a dance off
· Make your own set of bowls using empty plastic bottles and a tennis ball or football
· Help the children build a fort or den in their bedroom or the living room with cushions and blankets
· Organise an indoor treasure hunt and hide the clues around the house
· Hopscotch, use chalk to mark it out on a hard floor.
Don’t forget the old favourites like skipping and Hula Hoops and many more game ideas can be found in the Get Children Active section of www.getirelandactive.ie As a treat, why not go to the local swimming pool or bowling alley?